Feb
15
2014

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

Melatonin has been available to the public in the US since 1992. It is usually used as a sleeping aid or for jet lag related sleeping problems. However, in the last decade much more data about melatonin has come out that has proven that melatonin is a major hormone. The pineal gland contains another brain hormone, serotonin, which is converted into melatonin within that gland. Melatonin is a key hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle. It works in concert with cortisol, which has the highest level in the morning while melatonin has its highest level in the evening and during the night. Melatonin also regulates the menstrual cycle and determines when women get into menopause.

Lately new information has come to the forefront showing that there are connections to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke size and recovery from strokes. Even traumatic brain injury can be minimized when enough melatonin is present. In addition melatonin is an important anti-oxidant.

Finally, there is evidence that melatonin helps to determine how well we age.

In the following I like to review some of the evidence for all of these claims.

1. Melatonin as a hormone

Melatonin levels were found to be very low in breast cancer and prostate cancer patients. It has been determined that the immune cells have melatonin hormone receptors and need melatonin for stimulation. Because of the immune stimulatory effect of melatonin, it is often given as a cancer adjuvant treatment to other cancer treating modalities. Ref. 1 describes that melatonin regulates the female hormones (LH, FSH), which then determine when a woman has her menstrual period and also when she eventually enters menopause. The pineal gland is the master gland for the diurnal hormone rhythms.

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

Melatonin More Than A Sleeping Aid

2. Melatonin levels decline with age

Melatonin levels in both men and women decline as we age. This figure shows that the highest melatonin levels are reached by the age of 10; by the age of 40 only 15% of the youthful levels remain while by the age of 55 only 5% or less of the original youthful levels are left. This explains why older people are more prone to infections (missing immune stimulation) and why the sleep pattern in older people is changed (shorter periods of sleep, less restful sleep). Ref. 1 points out that with insulin resistance (from diabetes or due to excessive sugar and starch consumption) cortisol levels are chronically elevated, which in turn inhibits melatonin production.

3. Melatonin protects from neurodegenerative diseases

A newer application of melatonin is as a preventative in the neurological field, particularly in the area of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and the prevention of strokes. With respect to Alzheimer’s disease studies have shown that patients with Alzheimer’s have much lower melatonin blood levels when compared to age matched normal controls. In ischemic stroke patients it was found that stroke patients had much lower melatonin levels when compared to normal age-matched controls. Other studies have shown that pineal gland calcification was associated with low melatonin levels and a high risk for ischemic stroke. This risk was even higher when the patients had high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol/triglycerides. When a stroke has occurred, it is important that the free radicals are removed as quickly as possible, which is where the antioxidant properties of melatonin fit into a rehabilitative program. The presence of melatonin enhances brain plasticity. However instead of using melatonin after a stroke, it is much better to use melatonin regularly before a possible stroke, as this gives a better chance reducing the size of the stroke. This in turn will lead to a faster and more complete recovery after a stroke.

Another important disease of the elderly is Parkinson’s disease. Melatonin helps to prevent oxidative damage to the dopamine producing cells in the basal ganglia thus preventing Parkinson’s disease. As with Alzheimer’s disease, there is a correlation of low melatonin levels and this neurodegenerative disease, which goes beyond the age-related reduction of melatonin levels. In experimental Parkinson’s disease models in mice melatonin was highly effective in preventing deterioration of Parkinson’s disease.

4. Melatonin may extend life

The combination of being a free radical scavenger, an immunostimulant and an integral key hormone allow melatonin to have beneficial effects in the aging process. When melatonin supplements are given, the stimulation of the immune system can cut down infection rates in the elderly, prevent and mitigate degenerative diseases of the brain (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s), re-establish sleep/waking rhythms and help reduce arthritis.

Conclusion

Melatonin is a widely used sleep aid. As it is practically absent in people beyond the age of 55, it makes sense to supplement with melatonin in that patient group. However, there are side effects particularly in people on blood thinners as coumadin competes with melatonin in getting eliminated through the cytochrome P450 liver enzyme system. This will result in longer bleeding times in patients on blood thinners who also take melatonin supplements. It is important that patients discuss this with their doctors. However, given all of the benefits described above, for the vast majority of the baby boomers melatonin supplementation would be very beneficial. Doses as a sleep aid vary between 1mg and 5mg at bedtime for most people. Cancer patients require higher doses (10 to 20 mg per day).

More information on melatonin, which is at the center of the circadian hormone rhythm as the key hormone switching from day to night and welcoming the day by switching its secretion from the pineal gland off in the morning: https://www.askdrray.com/how-to-cope-with-time-switches/

Reference

1. Datis Kharrazian: “Why isn’t my brain working?” Copyright 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA, USA (pages 306-310).

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Nov
16
2013

You Can Fight Back Against Arthritis

Osteoarthritis affects about 4 to 5% of the population with women outnumbering men by 2 to 1. The age of onset typically is less than 50 years, but becomes more evident and more disabling beyond the age of 50. About 40 to 60% of osteoarthritis is genetically linked as twin studies in women have shown (Ref.1).

Synonyms for osteoarthritis are degenerative joint disease, osteoarthrosis and arthrosis.

Till recently arthritis was accepted as something that was inevitable: people were getting old, were getting stiff and sore, and had to “take it easy” as a result when they got older. Things are not as uncomplicated, as arthritis affects about 53 million Americans, and it has become the leading cause of disability in the US.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It is not a disease of “old age” but can affect people of every age group. The body reacts to components in joint tissue, and this immune reaction to collagen will produce inflammation, pain and ultimately disability.

So far osteoarthritis was believed to be the result of wear and tear affecting the aging population, but more recently it has been discovered that osteoarthritis is also accompanied by the same inflammatory immune factors that are involved in rheumatoid arthritis.

When the body attacks collagen, which is needed to keep the joints moving smoothly, microscopic particles of it wander into the blood stream. There they are perceived as foreign molecules, and the immune system produces inflammatory substances (cytokines). These are sending out an army of “killer T-cells” to combat the collagen, which is perceived as a foreign matter. They are bombarding the exposed cartilage with toxic substances. This means a chaotic combination of oxidative stress and more inflammation. Over time the cartilage that was meant to protect the joint in its function to move freely is eroded and destroyed. For the person suffering of this disordered reaction, it means that the joint is not only creaking but causing pain, which is made even worse by weight bearing (walking, standing). Any person suffering of osteoarthritis will complain that he or she feels stiff and sore especially after a period of inactivity.

Commercials for anti-inflammatory medication are plentiful, and many sufferers resort to the pain relief that is promised. The warnings are mentioned right after the commercial or on the medication package, if the patient reads the fine print. Most anti-inflammatory medications are causing irritation of the stomach, and the kidneys get damaged (nephropathy)with prolonged use from these pills despite the promises in commercials of a happy, active and pain free life.

You Can Fight Back Against Arthritis

Causes of arthritis

There are many varied causes that can all contribute to developing arthritis.

It is important to take a critical look at lifestyle choices. Excessive body weight puts an additional burden on the joints in the body. Increased body fat is not just sitting at the abdomen as an inert potbelly. Abdominal fat is a highly active metabolic organ that releases inflammatory substances into the blood stream, which distributes them throughout the body. It is known to damage blood vessels. Inflammation will damage the joints as well. The statistics show that 33.8 % of obese women have arthritis. The percentage for obese men shows that 25.2 % suffer of arthritis.

Smoking leads to circulatory problems, and lack of oxygenation in the body’s tissues. It is a mistake to believe that damage is done only to the lungs or the heart. The joints will be affected as well.

Mechanical stress with inadequate self-repair is one cause; misalignment of bones such as knock-knee (genu valgum) and bowleggedness (genu varum) will lead to premature osteoarthritis of the knees as can loss of muscle strength. Exercise without injury does not contribute the risk for developing osteoarthritis; it is actually part of the rehabilitation plan.

According to Ref. 2 there are other causative factors, such as increased age, female sex, race (black women have a twofold increase of arthritis over Caucasian women), estrogen deficiency, nutritional factors, genetics, metabolic and endocrine disorders, joint trauma, joint deformity, occupational factors and sports participation (accumulation of mini injuries).

One of the newer findings is that osteoarthritis is actually an inflammatory condition where numerous destructive processes occur within the affected joints leading to a breakdown of cartilage and supportive synovial fluid factors (proteoglycans). These findings lead to the possibility of new therapeutic approaches discussed below.

Diagnosis of osteoarthritis

According to Ref. 1 there are no blood tests and analysis of synovial fluid is non-diagnostic. Diagnosis of osteoarthritis is made by history, X-rays of the affected joints and clinical findings. There are joint tenderness and swelling of the affected joints. Heberden’s nodes (swelling of the distal interphalangeal joints or DIP joints) and Bouchard’s nodes (swelling of the proximal interphalangeal joints or PIP joints) are present. There can be a decreased range of motion and a grating sound of two ends of bones rubbing together (called “crepitus”).  X-rays show typical osteoarthritis details with a narrowing of the joint space of the affected joint, subchondral sclerosis (increased bone formation around the joint) and new bone formation at the joint margins, called “osteophytes”).

Integrative therapy of arthritis

Ref. 2 points out that integrative treatment of arthritis is aimed at reducing joint pain, increasing joint function and reducing further joint deterioration. Some measures are symptomatic only, others are disease modifying.

Nutrition

Dietary habits can promote good health or have disastrous consequences. The news has been out for some time that the typical North American diet with a high load of omega-6 fatty acids will stoke the fires of inflammation in the body and lead to arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Soybean oil, cottonseed oil and safflower oil contain the cheaper omega-6 oils that are widely used in food processing and bakery products. Refined carbohydrates contribute to unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels and wreak havoc in their own way paving the downward slope to insulin resistance, metabolic derailment, and diabetes. Take a hard look at your shopping wagon. Stay away from processed foods, shop the periphery of the supermarket, and choose organic meats, vegetables and fruit. Use heart healthy fat in the form of virgin olive oil. A Mediterranean type diet will be a good choice. Just bear in mind, that a heap of pasta like Fettuccine Alfredo does not constitute what a healthy Mediterranean diet is all about. An anti-inflammatory diet such as a Mediterranean diet also includes deep-water fish as a source of omega-3 fatty acids or molecularly distilled omega-3 capsules (you need 7 to 8 high potency, molecularly distilled fish oil, 1000mg per capsule) every day.

This approach has shown beneficial effects in beginning stages of osteoarthritis.

It is important to cut out sugar and starchy foods to reduce insulin resistance, which would otherwise maintain the inflammatory chronic condition causing arthritis and cardiovascular disease. For the same reason cutting out wheat and wheat products has been shown to be beneficial in reducing inflammation. Such an anti-arthritis diet prevents heart attacks and strokes at the same time.

Weight loss

Ref. 2 points out that one study showed that weight reduction of only 10% had a 28% improvement in joint function. When this is combined with an exercise program the improvements are even more striking.

Exercise

Exercise consists of aerobic training, resistance training and muscle strengthening. When patients with osteoarthritis were observed throughout controlled exercise programs, flexibility and range of motion of the affected joints were improving. A minimum of three days per week of exercise was required to show improvements, but the best effects were observed when patients exercised most of the days. Joints become less swollen, show improved circulation and less pain. Before an exercise program is done, those with increased cardiovascular risk should first undergo an exercise stress test to measure their cardiovascular reserve and establish that it is safe to start a program. Secondly, an acutely inflamed or swollen joint should first be treated before an exercise program is started. Lack of exercise will promote more disability. While a person with arthritis may be unable to run a brisk race due to joint discomfort, he or she will find water exercises and swimming much more manageable. Group programs for people with arthritis are available and you may enjoy the supportive company.

Heat and cold therapy

Ref. 2 points out that three weekly 30 minute sessions of microwave diathermy for 4 weeks showed a significant reduction of joint swelling in knee osteoarthritis with improved joint function and reduced pain. On the other hand cold packs for aching muscles after strenuous exercises can decrease muscle spasm and increase the pain threshold. Range of motion increased with cold application and joint swelling was reduced. Patients who have cold sensitivity (such as Raynaud disease) need to refrain from the latter treatment modality.

Acupuncture and electro acupuncture

These treatments were found by Ref.2 to be useful as an adjunct to anti-inflammatory medication with NSAIDS (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs); the advantage was that the dosage of NSAIDS could be reduced, which reduced the potential serious side effects of gastric bleeds and kidney damage. Note that people with pacemakers or CNS stimulators cannot use electro acupuncture.

Intraarticular steroid injections

When only a few joints are affected by osteoarthritis (or rheumatoid arthritis), a physician can inject a corticosteroid into the joint. However, there are limitations, as each joint should not be injected more than 3 to 4 times per year. Otherwise there can be damage to the joint cartilage, which would make the arthritis worse. However, I have seen surprisingly good results for a long period of time, which allowed the patients to exercise and stabilize the joints that way.

Complementary treatments

A number of supplements and herbs are effective in reducing inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are the precursors for anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the body, which helps both patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. As indicated under nutrition above, higher doses are required for this effect and for safety (avoiding toxicity from mercury and PBC’s) molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid supplements should only be used (yes, they are more expensive).

Curcumin, the active ingredient of the spice turmeric, has been used in India and Asia for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties for centuries. It helps not only arthritis, but also helps also against the illnesses that are often associated with it (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune conditions). Ref. 2 points out that curcumin neutralizes inflammatory agents circulating in the blood of patients with arthritis.

Standardized ginger extract was shown to reduce pain significantly in patients with knee osteoarthritis.

Other common supplements for building up cartilage in the joint are glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin, both available at the health food store. They stimulate glycosaminoglycan formation, which in turn builds up hyaline cartilage, the enamel-like coating of the bone within the joint.

An oral desensitization to treat arthritis

Can joint health be helped in other ways? New answers have emerged. In the past, people who were suffering with colds or flus were consuming a steaming bowl of chicken soup. It should be mentioned that colds and flus are also an inflammatory reaction that occurs within the body.

While a lot of health professionals dismissed this home remedy as old-fashioned and useless, a team of scientist from the University of Nebraska decided to research the matter a bit closer. They discovered that it was not the vegetables, but a component in the chicken broth that showed anti-inflammatory activity. The chicken derived type II collagen functions to regulate the immune system, so it stops attacking proteins normally found in healthy joint cartilage. Results of a pilot study have shown remarkable results. A dose of 40 mg per day of un-denatured type II collagen (UC-II) showed a significant reduction in pain and swelling from arthritis. It also yielded good results in terms of relief from joint pain and stiffness due to exercise.

Animal studies on dogs and horses were also conducted demonstrating that both animal groups that frequently suffer from arthritis got significant relief. Human clinical trials with UC-II showed similar effectiveness.

A group of patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis were treated with the supplement for 90 days. 33% experienced a reduction in their osteoarthritis. The pain was reduced by 40%. Those patients who received the standard treatment without any supplement had 15.4% less pain. Joint function was improved by 20% in the group taking the supplement, while only 6% of improvement was seen in the patient group receiving standard care.

Healthy patients were also assessed who did not suffer of arthritis, but received the supplement to evaluate how they would fare with exercise-induced knee pain. They were treated with a daily dose of 40 mg of UC-II. After day 90 and 120 the group that was treated with the supplement could exercise for significantly longer periods before experiencing joint pain. They also recovered faster after joint pain. The placebo group who swallowed “fake pills” did not show these changes. When knee joint flexibility was examined, the supplement group had significant increases in their knee mobility, but no luck for the placebo group!

Numerous toxicological essays have evaluated the supplement. There is no oral toxicity. No mutations in bacterial genomes have been observed, which is a standard screen to ensure that a substance is non-carcinogenic.

The UC-II supplement works through a mechanism, where the immune system is desensitized by ways of oral administration. It reverses T-cell attacks on exposed cartilage. If our joints are healthy and intact, we normally do not react to our own cartilage. But the protective barrier between blood and cartilage diminishes as we age. Early treatment with UC-II may help induce immune tolerance even in healthy individuals and protect them from reactions of the immune system to their own cartilage.

Conclusion

The supplementation with UC-II offers a different approach to modify joint inflammation of arthritis. Standard treatment at this point consists mainly of symptomatic treatment. Side effects to the drugs can be serious, if they are used on a long-term basis. Few are tolerable to modify the course of the disease.

With the UC-II supplement the root of the disease (autoimmune disease) is being addressed, and relief can be achieved within a few weeks of starting it. With life style changes that were mentioned before and this supplement it is possible to fight back against arthritis!

More information on arthritis: http://nethealthbook.com/arthritis/

References

1. “Osteoarthritis. Basic information”. Ferri: Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2014, 1st ed., © 2013 Mosby

2.  Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed., 2012 Saunders

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

May
18
2013

Treatment For Alzheimer’s Failed, But Prevention Succeeds

Recently another news story about a failed drug against Alzheimer’s disease (AD) went through the news media as shown in this link.

Donepezil, galantamine, rivastigmine and memantine are the most common drugs used to attempt to treat Alzheimer’s as this review explains. None of these drugs are a real breakthrough with regard to truly curing AD, as the drugs only achieve a few months of delay in the eventual deterioration of the AD patient’s symptoms. On the other hand there is an overwhelming accumulation of data in the last few years showing that many different factors can prevent AD and dementia. Below I am reviewing all these preventative factors and steps.

Genetic and epigenetic factors in Alzheimer’s disease

Early onset Alzheimer’s disease occurs between 30 and 60 years of age. It is due to a genetic predisposition (mutations on genes of chromosomes 1, 14 and 21). Only about 5% of all AD cases are caused this way. The remaining 95% of Alzheimer’s cases are due to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Here the causation is due to a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. One genetic risk factor in this group is important, namely the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE), which is located on chromosome 19. There are several forms of APOE as this review explains. It also states that there is so much variation between the various APOE forms and even the worst form of this does not necessarily mean that the person who has this will come down with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. So APOE is presently only used in research projects. Your doctor will only order genetic tests in people who have a strong family history of early onset AD.

There is another genetic marker, the CYP46 gene that was found to be present in some late-onset AD patients. If it is combined in a patient with the APOE gene, there is a much higher chance of developing AD as this review shows.

Epigenetic factors are probably more important than genetic factors for most cases of late-onset AD, as this review explains. Another review came to the same conclusion.

What are epigenetic factors? Exercising, replacing missing hormones, using a calorie restricted, only 15-20% fat containing diet; and taking supplements as listed below that will keep harmful genes in the “off” position and protective genes in the “on” position. Taking these preventative steps is probably more powerful than using any of the presently available medications mentioned above.

Treatment For Alzheimer’s Failed, But Prevention Succeeds

Treatment For Alzheimer’s Failed, But Prevention Succeeds

Exercise, diet, control blood pressure

As already mentioned, these are some of the powerful epigenetic factors that will prevent AD down the road. Controlling blood pressure has long been known to improve cognitive function. It is now evident that there seems to be a problem with microcirculation in brain tissue before it comes to neurodegenerative changes of AD and the underlying deficiency in nitric oxide production in the lining of the diseased arteries. Other research has shown that a lack of nitric oxide (NO) production is also the underlying problem with hypertension.

Green vegetables such as kale, spinach, also cabbage varieties and red beets are a source of nitric oxide and have also been shown to prevent AD at the same time.

Add to this exercise and you have a winning combination for the prevention of AD. You guessed right: exercise increases NO production from he lining of your arteries. When people age their lining of the arteries does not produce as much NO as in younger years. However, there is a supplement available, Neo40 Daily, that can be taken twice a day to compensate for this.

Here is another report about a 30% to 40% reduction in the incidence of AD when people do regular, simple exercises.

More good news about fruit and vegetables: tomatoes, watermelons, pink guava, pink grapefruit, papaya, apricot and other fruit all contain lycopenes, which have been shown to prevent AD.

Recently a new testing tool in combination with a PET scan of the brain has been developed, which may help the treating physicians to assess improvement or deterioration of an AD patient objectively using this method. However, this is still considered to be only a research tool at this time.

Supplements to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

The following brain-specific nutrients play a part in the prevention and treatment of AD (according to Ref.1):

1. B-vitamins: they are important to support the energy metabolism of brain cells.

2. Vitamin C: this has antioxidant properties and prevents brain cells and supportive glia cells from oxidizing.

3. Vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols: together with vitamin C has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

4. Phosphatidylserine (PS), with an intake of up to 300mg/day: counteracts and prevents memory loss.

5. Coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone), 100mg/day (it would be safe to take 400 mg per day, which is also cardio protective): stabilizes the mitochondria of brain cells and heart muscle cells. It is a powerful neuroprotective agent and supports ATP production (energy metabolism of brain cells).

6. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), at a dose up to 240mg/day: increases micro vascular circulation, neutralizes free radicals from oxidation and improves short-term memory.

7. Omega-3 fatty acid and DHA, 1500mg/day: has anti-inflammatory properties.

Other nutrients that hold promise are:

8. Huperzine A, 100 to 200mg/day: natural anticholinesterase inhibitor, derived from the Chinese club moss, surpasses donezepil according to studies by doctors in China

9. Vinpocetine, 2.5 to 10mg/day: comes from the periwinkle plant, increases cerebral blood flow and stimulates brain cell metabolism

10. Turmeric extract (curcumin) is very beneficial in reducing tau protein deposits in AD.

All these statements and dosages are cited from Ref.1.

Hormones to prevent Alzheimer’s disease

According to Ref. 1 there are certain hormones that can prevent AD: DHEA, pregnenolone, estrogen (bioidentical estrogen only).

  1. DHEA is persistently low in AD patients and replacement with DHEA at 50 mg daily has shown improvements in muscle strength and energy of AD patients.
  2. Pregnenolone has been shown to be a powerful memory enhancer in animals and humans alike.
  3. Estrogen, if taken as bioidentical estrogen cream (Bi-Est) can improve brain function. Estrogen is a strong epigenetic switch that keeps a woman mentally younger for longer, but has to be balanced with bioidentical progesterone cream to prevent breast cancer and uterine cancer. A study showed that estrogen replacement early in menopause will cut down on the heart attack rates, but it is also known, particularly when given as bioidentical hormone cream to prevent AD.
  4. In addition progesterone has been described to be of value in the aging woman to preserve brain metabolism.
  5. Testosterone is known to protect against Alzheimer’s disease in the aging male.
  6. Melatonin at a starting dose of 1 mg to 3 mg at bedtime often helps to restore the disturbed sleep pattern, but also augments the effects of the other hormones (Ref.1).

Removal of toxins, particularly mercury

Mercury is extremely toxic in minute amounts and affects brain cells preferentially. Intravenous vitamin C/glutathione treatments as described in this blog will remove mercury from your system including the brain.

It may take 20 to 30 such treatments in weekly intervals followed by a maintenance program every two to three weeks to remove mercury from the body.

Other heavy metals can accumulate in the brain as well and must be removed. This is described here in more detail.

Conclusion

There have been major breakthroughs in prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia over the past few years, many unnoticed by the media. The search is still on for an effective drug that would treat AD when it is present. However, this may be 10 or 15 years away and we cannot afford to wait that long. Instead I suggest that people should embrace the concept of preventing AD by using as many of the factors described above. Both at the 2011 and the 2012 Anti-Aging Conferences in Las Vegas several speakers pointed out that a combination of several preventative factors will be much more effective than one factor alone and they estimated that about 80% of AD could be prevented this way.

References

Ref.1. Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed., Copyright © 2012 Saunders, An Imprint of Elsevier. Chapter 9 – Alzheimer Disease. Integrative Medicine: “Kirtan Kriya, Telomeres, and Prevention of Alzheimer Disease”, by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD

Last edited Dec. 18, 2014